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Was Jesus Influenced By Hinduism And Buddhism?


kismet
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I think God and Truth have become institutionalized which is good for a few if it puts God in the heart, but for most it has only fossilized Truth and God so it can't live in harmony with other religions. It seems followers think they have to defend religion beating a dead horse into the ground. The mystics of most religions and people who have had a spiritual experience put their hearts in God which gives them a wider angle of vision so they might have come from religion, but they feel related to all religions not only the fossil. For these individuals scripture is not a matter of facts, but a matter of meanings for the spiritual aspirant. The spiritual experience is a journey into eternity beyond time, space and words so it can't be described. The words only hint at different levels of consciousness, which threatens the people institutionalized so they become more aggressive because of their fear. Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism describe the same levels of consciousness and ocean of pure consciousness, but use different words, metaphors and symbols to describe what can't be described. I feel the spiritual experience of unity is the same so as brothers and sisters look similar and different at the same time they come from the same source they will merge with in the end.

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Thank you for your reply :-) I've attended a few New Thought/New Age type churches looking for a community of open minded spiritual people but, for me, these churches felt superficial in content ~ that was my experience . . . Also I attended a UU church in my area but the average age was 70 (I'm 40 with kids) My husband is Episcopalian and so I found a more liberal leaning Episcopalian church and we attend sometimes. Through my readings, my own writing and wandering thoughts, I have always felt a more universal connection between these religions at their cores but It's hard to find a group to discuss those ideas. I know that true spirit cannot really be talked about or even written about only experienced

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It is difficult to say just how much communication ancient cultures had with each other (around 500 B.C., often called the Axial Age). From Europe to India that is a common language root as I understand it. Do I think Jesus personally was influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism? I would highly doubt it.

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I'm new to Christianity and wanted to know what the group feels about this topic.

 

I don't see how an illiterate, poor Galilean could possibly encounter Hinduism or Buddhism.

 

But, since Jesus was Jewish - an Eastern religion - his worldview will share some similarities to other Eastern religions - but that's mostly a cultural similarity. The religions themselves couldn't be more different in their details.

 

The fact that early Christian leaders replaced Judaism with Greek philosophy masks much of the similarities with the other Eastern religions. For example, the introduction of an apocalyptic end to the earth (worthy of a Greek tragedy!) and a fiery place of torment for the unrepentant; Hell (Hades), overshadows the more Eastern-like philosophy one finds in, say, the Sermon on the Mount (or Plain).

 

I converted to Judaism from Christianity, and was struck at how much more deeply I understood the human Jesus when I embraced the Eastern worldview of Judaism.

 

NORM

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I too have wondered about Jesus and Buddhism. On the one hand, I agree with the above that it would seem very unrealistic that Jesus would have encountered Buddhism. But then on the other, there are some remarkable similiarities between what Jesus says and what Buddha says (yes, differences too).

 

Marcus Borg has written a book comparing the two called 'Jesus & Buddha - The parallel sayings".

 

This is what Borg says about the book:

 

As a Christian, I grew up with Jesus and have lived with him all my life. I have not lived with the Buddha. Similarly my work on this book was from the vantage point of a Jesus scholar. But my experience has led me to the conclusion that their teachings about ‘the way’ are virtually identical and that together they are the two most remarkable religious figures who ever lived.”

 

So if Jesus didn't encounter Buddhism, why the startling similarities? Buddhism copied Jesus?

Edited by PaulS
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I too have wondered about Jesus and Buddhism. On the one hand, I agree with the above that it would seem very unrealistic that Jesus would have encountered Buddhism. But then on the other, there are some remarkable similiarities between what Jesus says and what Buddha says (yes, differences too).

 

Marcus Borg has written a book comparing the two called 'Jesus & Buddha - The parallel sayings".

 

This is what Borg says about the book:

 

As a Christian, I grew up with Jesus and have lived with him all my life. I have not lived with the Buddha. Similarly my work on this book was from the vantage point of a Jesus scholar. But my experience has led me to the conclusion that their teachings about ‘the way’ are virtually identical and that together they are the two most remarkable religious figures who ever lived.”

 

So if Jesus didn't encounter Buddhism, why the startling similarities? Buddhism copied Jesus?

 

No, not likely.

 

I think that they are both representative of human philosophy as it evolved from animism.

 

Uncannily similar discoveries in science have also happened. Folks in France, Germany and England all "invented" photography almost the same year. Likewise the radio, electricity, etc., etc., etc...

 

NORM

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So if Jesus didn't encounter Buddhism, why the startling similarities? Buddhism copied Jesus?

 

Two humans (or groups of humans) can independently develop similar thoughts and ideas. Writing, as an example, began independently in four places and has been copied by every other literate society.

 

George

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Two humans (or groups of humans) can independently develop similar thoughts and ideas. Writing, as an example, began independently in four places and has been copied by every other literate society.

 

George

 

Were they literate before they copied or afterwards? :)

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There have been claims that Jesus met travelling Bhuddist monks during the years before his public teaching. To me this seems unlikely, although maybe not impossible (?). If this were the case, why don't we see more traces of Bhuddism in the middle east and in pre-Islamic Arabia?

 

I find the analysis of Bishop Spong more likely when he suggests we can best understand Jesus as a Galilean Jew and the gospels as a midrash on Jewish scripture. It is very tempting to see Asian philosophy in the sayings attributed to Jesus, but perhaps they all share a common source in the Philosophia Perrenis.

 

Exploring the questions is exciting. —Jim

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Had there been direct teaching one way or the other, we would expect to find some linguistic traces. It is normal when borrowing a novel thing (material or abstract) from another culture to borrow the words that come with it. To my knowledge there is no evidence in either of the languages of any lexical borrowings.

 

George

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Well, maybe it wasn't Jesus but the people who wrote the bible who put the words in his mouth? Whatever the case, here's a taste of just how similiar some sayings are. Coincidence?

 

Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

Buddha: "Consider others as yourself." Dhammapada 10:1

 

Jesus: "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." Luke 6:29

Buddha: "If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words." Majjhima Nikaya 21:6

 

Jesus: "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." Matthew 25:45

Buddha: "If you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick." Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3

 

Jesus: "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword." Matthew 26:52

Buddha: "Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword." Digha Nikaya 1:1.8

 

Jesus: "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it." Mark 8:35

Buddha: "With the relinquishing of all thought and egotism, the enlightened one is liberated through not clinging." Majjhima Nikaya 72:15

 

Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20

Buddha: "Teach the dharma which is lovely at the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely at the end. Explain with the spirit and the letter in the fashion of Brahma. In this way you will be completely fulfilled and wholly pure." Vinaya Mahavagga 1:11.1

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Perhaps simply common elements of reality, truth, and human experience? If I, and another, in some foriegn place, describe our experience of love and devotion of mate and family and friends, or the beauty of nature, the majesty of great mountains, the mysteries of the sea..each in our own experience and language, would similarities in how we describe and express those things suggest we must have been in some kind of common collaboration for them to seem so similar?

 

Jenell

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Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

Buddha: "Consider others as yourself." Dhammapada 10:1

 

Coincidence?

 

Yes.

 

'That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.' - Shabbat 31a

 

The human mind is similar no matter where or when the skull that carried it existed.

 

NORM

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Yes.

 

 

 

The human mind is similar no matter where or when the skull that carried it existed.

 

NORM

 

The human mind may be similiar, but I don't think it's a stretch to imagine Buddha's teachings to have made their way across to Israel, and other countries surrounding India, during the some 400 years before Jesus existed. Rome was occupying Israel for some 60 years before Jesus. Plenty of time for worldly Romans to introduce other religous concepts and ideas, let alone traders and other travellers.

 

I think it is unlikely that Jesus visited India (however it is possible), and imo I think a large number of the phrases attributed to Jesus just sound so remarkably like the Buddha some 400 years earlier, that I doubt it was simple pure coincidence or that Jesus just happened to come up with similiar thoughts 400 years after Buddha. To me the odds are simply in favour of Jesus having heard of, or been exposed to, Buddhist teachings, one way or another.

 

That's not said to take away from Jesus' teachings or in any way reduce them, it just seems to me too much of a coincidence to say that Jesus had zero exposure to Buddhism.

Edited by PaulS
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Given how voluminous the Buddhist writings are, and given that any two religious philosophies will have some things in common, I think it would be more surprising if parallels did not exist, especially with regards to religious practice. What would suggest more than coincidence would be shared parables or narratives, or specialized doctrinal statements. If we found some form of the 4 noble truths in the gospels, for instance, we'd be hard pressed to explain that in any other way.

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Given how voluminous the Buddhist writings are, and given that any two religious philosophies will have some things in common, I think it would be more surprising if parallels did not exist, especially with regards to religious practice. What would suggest more than coincidence would be shared parables or narratives, or specialized doctrinal statements. If we found some form of the 4 noble truths in the gospels, for instance, we'd be hard pressed to explain that in any other way.

 

That's a good point. Not being very knowledgeable about Buddhism myself Mike, do you know if there are shared parables or narratives at all?

 

Cheers

Paul

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... I don't think it's a stretch to imagine Buddha's teachings to have made their way across to Israel, and other countries surrounding India, during the some 400 years before Jesus existed.

 

I seriously doubt it. The FIRST established contact with Asia and the Roman Empire is in the First Century CE. And the Kushan Empire (Afghanistan), who held a monopoly on the Silk Road trade, were in no hurry to facilitate the merger.

 

Now, there is one way I can imagine that Buddhist teaching could have found its way into Jesus' thinking; the 4th and 5th Century redactors could have inserted Buddhist thought into the biblical manuscripts they were editing. By the middle of the 4th Century CE, the teachings of Buddha were all over Europe.

 

Of course, the biggest influx of Asian influence on Europe happened throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance. It's not too far of a stretch to my way of thinking to imagine Buddhist influences sneaking their way into the Bible during the 1,000 years or so of a basically illiterate flock who would not notice that their scriptures were evolving.

 

That seems more likely to me than Jesus encountering a Shaolin Monk wandering the Negev.

 

NORM

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I think the universal truths in all the major religions would be the same because they are universal. An enlightened individual from whatever background is likely to reach these conclusions - the golden rule etc. That in itself is not that difficult to accept. The pagan religions of the ancient Mediteranean would have no doubt influenced religious thinking in the region of Judea before and after Jesus' time. The mystic religion of Pythagoras for example where he sent his disciples out across the region to set up and spread his mysticism based beliefs centuries before Jesus. After him there were the Cynics and others. It all has to intergrate with local society at some level to have any impact so I'm sure many influences went into what Jesus preached, through his Jewish lens.

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I seriously doubt it. The FIRST established contact with Asia and the Roman Empire is in the First Century CE. And the Kushan Empire (Afghanistan), who held a monopoly on the Silk Road trade, were in no hurry to facilitate the merger.

 

Now, there is one way I can imagine that Buddhist teaching could have found its way into Jesus' thinking; the 4th and 5th Century redactors could have inserted Buddhist thought into the biblical manuscripts they were editing. By the middle of the 4th Century CE, the teachings of Buddha were all over Europe.

 

Of course, the biggest influx of Asian influence on Europe happened throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance. It's not too far of a stretch to my way of thinking to imagine Buddhist influences sneaking their way into the Bible during the 1,000 years or so of a basically illiterate flock who would not notice that their scriptures were evolving.

 

That seems more likely to me than Jesus encountering a Shaolin Monk wandering the Negev.

 

NORM

 

I agree Norm, that is a very likely scenario.

 

I wonder if silk existed in Rome & Israel BCE? If it did, that would indicate contact with Asia much earlier.

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I wonder if silk existed in Rome & Israel BCE? If it did, that would indicate contact with Asia much earlier.

 

The first documented mention of silk in Rome is from 27 CE (Pliny: http://books.google....%20silk&f=false).

 

It became quite popular in the Roman court. But, it's rarity and cost ("the best Chinese bark - a particular kind of silk - cost as much as 300 denarii, a Roman soldier's salary for an entire year!" - source: http://www.silk-road...lkhistory.shtml) would have prohibited it from being experienced in many other poorer cultures.

 

Besides, the existence of silk in a region does not necessarily follow the adoption of ideas as complex as religion and philosophy. At most, trade helped spread linguistic influences.

 

It wasn't until the Middle Ages and beyond that the wide distribution of ideas and philosophies became pervasive.

 

NORM

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The first documented mention of silk in Rome is from 27 CE (Pliny: http://books.google....%20silk&f=false).

 

It became quite popular in the Roman court. But, it's rarity and cost ("the best Chinese bark - a particular kind of silk - cost as much as 300 denarii, a Roman soldier's salary for an entire year!" - source: http://www.silk-road...lkhistory.shtml) would have prohibited it from being experienced in many other poorer cultures.

 

Besides, the existence of silk in a region does not necessarily follow the adoption of ideas as complex as religion and philosophy. At most, trade helped spread linguistic influences.

 

It wasn't until the Middle Ages and beyond that the wide distribution of ideas and philosophies became pervasive.

 

NORM

 

Norm, the 2nd web site you referenced would suggest that silk was identified in Rome much earlier than 27CE:

 

Silk became a precious commodity highly sought by other countries at a very early time, and it is believed that the silk trade was actually started before the Silk Road was officially opened in the second century BC. An Egyptian female mummy with silk has been discovered in the village of Deir el Medina near Thebes and the Valley of the Kings, dated 1070 BC, which is probably the earliest evidence of the silk trade. During the second century BC, the Chinese emperor, Han Wu Di's ambassadors traveled as far west as Persia and Mesopotamia, bearing gifts including silks.

 

From about the fourth century BC, the Greeks and Romans began talking of Seres, the Kingdom of Silk.

 

If silk was being traded with Egypt as early as 1070BCE, then odds are that such trade would do much more than simply help spread linguistic influences over some 1000 years before Jesus. I still think Romans and Jews are very likely to be at least aware of, if not familiar, with Buddhism. Of course that doesn't mean Jesus was.

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I'm not a history expert, but it is presented in the Development of World Religion Textbook, from actually my first relgious studies course, Into to World Religions, there is a great evidence suggesting widespread and significant cultural, including religious ideas and thought, from Europe to China and India, underwent dramatic changes during the Axial age, 500-600 BC, in which both the dissemination of new technolgies and peoples, whether as traders or immigrants, resulted in a lot of blending and mixing between many of those cultures. There is evidence of a very definite shift of consciousness in that era, that effected everything from new developing technologies and certainly religion.

But also, those newly opened and greatly expanded interchange of ideas, as well as commerce, was not a limited period, but a permanent change that never ended, and these regions continued to interact and influence each other. Whether "formal" Roman contact with China came later or not, this intercommunication had already long gone on.

And it is likely many of the strong similarities and parallels over the course of time in those cultures, relgious as well, involved that, similar ideas even in distant regions coming out of common roots.

Edited by JenellYB
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If silk was being traded with Egypt as early as 1070BCE, then odds are that such trade would do much more than simply help spread linguistic influences over some 1000 years before Jesus. I still think Romans and Jews are very likely to be at least aware of, if not familiar, with Buddhism. Of course that doesn't mean Jesus was.

 

When you purchase bananas from the grocer, do you engage in philosophical discussion?

 

The article mentioned that silk was found "as early as 1070 BCE," but there is nothing documented about the Silk trade until about 200 BCE in Mesopotamia, which may or may not have included ancient Greeks and Romans. Further, the ones doing the trading were NOT Chinese. They never left China. There were middlemen involved twice removed from the Chinese. It is probable that the people who sold silk to the Romans were from the Middle East.

 

The first MENTION of silk in the possession of Romans is by Pliny.

 

I still seriously doubt - not saying it's impossible - that Jesus would have any contact with Buddhist missionaries. Even if he had, he would have no way to understand their language.

 

NORM

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Norm, you do have a good point there. All of us here probably have more 'stuff' around us at this moment that was made in China than we do stuff made in our own country. Doesn't mean any of us know anything about China or engage in conservastion with Chinese people. The transport of goods through ancient trade routes was through 'relay' for the most part, the merchants engaged in trade each themselves traveled relatively short distances with goods before the met with trade caravans from the opposite direction to exchange goods.

 

Jenell

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